The Buddy System

By | June 17, 2019

[June 17, 2019] “Find a buddy. You’ve got 10 seconds,” the Drill Sergeant screamed at us as we arrived at Fort Polk, Louisiana for boot camp. Private Thibaut Lemieux, a Cajun from southern Louisiana, stood next to me and we instantly became part of the Army’s mandated buddy system.

Thibaut (pronounced t-bow) and I were inseparable throughout the remainder of boot camp. Good thing too that we never left each other’s sight. The military had recently implemented the buddy system officially because there had been too many preventable deaths. Our job was to watch our buddy for any signs of health problems (like dehydration) and stop them from doing something dangerous (like picking up an explosive).

The buddy system also prevented us from getting into trouble. We always watched out for each other. Today, the buddy system is still required. In combat, the requirement is rigidly enforced. As our Drill Sergeants used to say, “lose your buddy and you’ll get muddy.” They were referring to the combat obstacle course and the threat of running it as punishment was a big motivator.

In the U.S. Air Force, the buddy system is called “wingmen” and in the U.S. Navy, “shipmates.” Both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have their own version of the buddy system but the intent remains the same; do things as a single entity, monitor each other, and help if needed. Next month my Scout Troop will be headed to Summer Camp and we insist upon the buddy system.

The buddy system has a number of advantages:

  1. Helps promote friendship.
  2. Builds trust and confidence.
  3. Provides feedback on behavior.
  4. Creates a sense of belonging.
  5. Develops skills at bonding and social interaction.
  6. Results in positive attitudes.
  7. Teaches responsibility and leadership skills.
  8. Promotes self-control, self-esteem, and self-confidence.
  9. Improves communication with peers.
  10. Decreases behavior problems.
  11. Teaches collaboration.
  12. Reduces stress and anxiety.
  13. Increases peer acceptance.

The buddy system works and works well. Use it and the results will immediately become self-apparent. Private Thibaut Lemieux and I have been “buddies” ever since that day long ago.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “The Buddy System

  1. Scotty Bush

    I have found that the buddy system worked well at my workplace and everyone agrees that came up thru that system. It was removed two years ago and I now think my boss realizes his mistake. Good article today.

    1. Harry B. Donner

      I too saw something similar in a business competitor (I work in retail). They went out of business. Now, I cannot contribute their failure to not having a buddy system but those employees told me about low morale, lack of trust, etc. It may have been a factor.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Much appreciate you reaching out to us to show a really good layout of the buddy system’s use in different settings. Someone did a good job of putting this one together.

  2. Xerxes I

    You list is great. Helps build trust and confidence is one of the key indicators that the buddy system is working properly. Any leader who doesn’t know about this, is in for a rude awakening. This is just another tool in the leader’s toolbox to get things done. Gen. Satterfield, I recommend you write an article in your series on leader tools and use this one.

    1. JT Patterson

      Good suggestion. I’m sure General Satterfield reads these comments and will take it under advisement.

    2. José Luis Rodriguez

      Spot-on recommendation. I agree.

      1. Max Foster

        We’re glad you’re reading our comments, Gen. Satterfield.

  3. Harry B. Donner

    The last thing you want to hear from a new employee on their first day is “Nobody knew I was starting today.”

    1. Wilson Cox

      You got that right. But I think Gen. Satterfield’s idea of the buddy system last more than temporarily; it could last a lifetime. Buddy systems work in the short term and are most often used that way. Like in the case of a new employee who is matched up with a longer term employee. But also when people are in unusual situations that may pose risks; like camping with the boy scouts.

  4. Eric Coda

    Great list of benefits for the buddy system. I used it since I was a young boy in the scouts. We were taught ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of the system and I even use it today with my family whenever we go on trips.

    1. Drew Dill

      Ha ha. Funny but I suspect true. Thanks Eric for making my day.

    2. Eric Coda

      You’re welcome, Drew. Hope all is well with you. I see you are on-line quick today.

  5. Army Captain

    Oh, how important this is at the most basic level of leadership with the intent of taking care of their people. Well written.

    1. Georgie M.

      Good to hear you confirm the usefulness of the ‘buddy system.’ I too used it as a girl scout and didn’t know that it went outside that organization.

      1. Martin Shiell

        Amazing what we learn as kids in the scouting program. Now we have girls in the boy scouts. I guess it was only a matter of time before the sissy boy scout leadership fell prey to the PC world. I wonder how long it will take for them to change it back?

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